While most of the world paused in March 2020, Maureen O’Shea took on a new challenge—to lead the recently formed Office of Institutional Assessment and Evaluation (OIAE) at Northeastern University. Stepping into the role she was charged with coordinating and overseeing the systematic assessment process for all of Northeastern’s graduate and undergraduate academic programs— providing centralized support for the efforts within each individual college.
“I built on a lot of the work that was already done and pulled together a leadership team with as much representation across the University as possible,” shared Maureen. “Then, I worked closely with our Center for Teaching and Learning and Academic Technology teams to get things up and running, including the implementation and integration of an assessment management platform.”
Today, Maureen leads a small team in the OIAE, and in just three years, they have made enormous strides. The scope of their duties includes supporting the assessment and evaluation of:
- All graduate and undergraduate programs
- Programs with regional and specialized program accreditation requirements
- NUpath, Northeastern’s academic core curriculum
The team also plans include the impact of Northeastern’s experiential learning initiatives, including co-op and co-curricular opportunities, on student achievement of program learning outcomes, to align with the Experience Unleashed Academic Plan.
A focus on meaningful and measurable results
A core component of the OIAE’s work is partnering with program directors and faculty to assess program learning outcomes, the gold standard for ensuring academic quality. This process involves faculty reviewing student performance through their coursework to ensure the outcomes have been achieved.
“The results and findings are then used to improve the curriculum,” explained Maureen. “Furthermore, as we build this data set, we’re able to disaggregate by demographics to ensure all students—including international, first-generation, and historically underrepresented groups—are on-track to achieve the same outcomes. And if not, programs and colleges have the data to define actionable steps to offer more support so every student has the chance to do well.”
Leveraging technology for a streamlined assessment process
Long-term, Maureen and the OIAE are committed to optimizing and streamlining the program assessment process through the introduction of HelioCampus (formerly known as AEFIS)—a dynamic digital tool that can be used to evaluate learning outcomes of all programs. The goal is to have every program on campus utilize HelioCampus by Fall 2024.
The OIAE team is making excellent progress, and they’re available to assist any faculty who need help utilizing HelioCampus.
“We have 233 programs using HelioCampus—so we’re about half way toward our Fall 2024 goal,” noted Maureen. “And for those departments already using the tool, the impact has been positive.” For example, the D’Amore McKim School of Business graduate faculty used assessment data to expand and revise assignments for some courses, add an additional required course, and raise the standards where outcomes were being met. The focus on assessment has led to stronger programs. “Are students learning what we intended? With our complex and innovative programs, assessment is a tool to help answer that question.”